By Emma Martinez
Retirement is approaching for Penn, Gurney and Barclay Halls; the men’s dorm building affectionately dubbed PGB. In an email sent campus-wide, students learned simultaneously of the retirement of PGB as a full-time residence hall along with plans for the women’s Fox hall, connected to Woolman and Whittier Halls to form WWF, to become a men’s hall in replacement of the lost space of PGB.
These changes are an undeniable loss to Malone students living in Penn, Gurney and Fox Halls as they find themselves displaced from the place they called home. However, the changes have been made with careful consideration and are an effort from Malone’s administration to better care for the campus at large.
“PGB’s a special place for me because … I really raised my family there,” Tony Schnyders, dean of community life and student engagement and previous resident director of PGB for six years, said. “I remember when it went from PGB to just PG and it just kept moving on one floor at a time. We’ve really been trying to hang on to that space for our guys [but] I think now the building’s becoming harder and harder to maintain as it gets older. It’s sad.”
“It’ll shift things in some ways,” Micah Czirr, the resident director of PGB and Haviland Halls, said. “PGB is a staple, physically, of the campus; people’s parents and even some people’s grandparents lived there. It’s got a lot of history, a lot of legacy.”
“It was challenging in some respects and rewarding in others,” Annie St. John, administrator for the history, political science and social studies department as well as previous resident director of WWF, said as she spoke on having some men living in Fox Hall during the time she was resident director.
“The men on [Fox Hall], I think they felt like outsiders to our group,” St. John said. “Not that they didn’t contribute or weren’t good to have there, but it wasn’t ideal, in my opinion. It suited the need at the time, we made the best of it and there were definitely some good things, but it was hard.”
“It makes me sad, I like this dorm,” Evan McBride, sophomore exercise science major and current resident of Penn Hall, said. “The only benefit that I can see from [the men] going to Fox [Hall] is we get carpet and we’ll have a sink in our room. Besides that, I don’t see [a] big change.”
“If I lived on campus [next semester], my plan was to live on Fox [Hall],” Courtney Weaver, sophomore intervention specialist in education major and current resident of Fox Hall, said. “It’s very disappointing that I won’t be able to continue living in Fox [Hall] so I have to look at the different options … I was super sad; I love Fox [Hall].”
The decision is being made from a pragmatic perspective of what is effective in terms of the buildings available to people and keeping them running.
“We haven’t been able to fill most of [PGB] the last three to four years,” Czirr said. “So from a functional and a fiscal standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to put the guys in Fox [Hall] since WWF has also not been at capacity for the last four to five years. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get a 200% increase in freshmen in order to fill it.”
“It’s just not good when you’re in a place where it’s obvious that your enrollment has dropped on campus,” Schnyders said. “Trying to weigh the concern between what is fiscally responsible for [Malone] and the effort to keep costs that are soaring … to help us make decisions that help to make [Malone] more healthy financially.”
The resident life staff and administration were quick to speak on concerns that residents of WWF, both the women and incoming men, might be feeling about the technicalities of how the changes will work.
“I understand that students are concerned about [this change] being a thing, with men and women living right next to each other,” Schnyders said. “The actual entry point to each building still has the same level of security.”
The entrance where Fox Hall meets Whittier Hall will have card swipes on both sides of the doors, so entering Fox Hall after visiting hours as a girl will only be possible should one of the boys open the door for her, and the same will be true of boys entering Whittier Hall after visitation hours.
Another point of discussion was the shared living space of WWF being used by the new male residents.
The existing laundry facilities will be kept available for the women residing in Whittier and Woolman Halls, and a new set of laundry facilities will be opened within Fox, solely for the use of the men.
“Myers has always been a Whittier and Woolman [Halls] space, so I won’t want [the male residents of Fox Hall] to be using it too much,” Czirr said. “I’ll be trying to host stuff in Haviland [Hall] lounges as much as possible to avoid stepping on toes and being in each other’s space when it’s not necessary.”
The main concern for many was if the communities that currently exist in PGB and WWF could continue on through these new changes.
“The reason the girls love Fox [Hall] so much is because of the community that’s built into [it],” Weaver said. “[We’re] sad because [we] feel like the community’s going to end.”
On the other end of the change, McBride echoed these concerns.
“I just like it here — this was my home. We like the rooms [and] we like the community,” McBride said. “We just have doors open and people going in and out of rooms all the time [and] that’s not always seen in dorms. The community life is what we like … some guys don’t want to move into a girls’ dorm.”
“There’s a subdued, somberness that I’ve noticed when I’ve interacted with the guys,” Czirr said. “An acceptance of reality, but the guys who actually live [in PGB] are not pumped about it … It’s a big change. In the case of the cross-country team, their team legacy feels like it’s tied to the building.”
Despite some of the sadness the change is causing, there are also some positive angles coming out of it. Not least of these is the new opportunity for community that consolidation provides.
“Putting the guys [in Fox Hall] will consolidate the [women’s] space in the two WWs and will also consolidate campus because PGB is a little bit off to the side,” Czirr said. “It will put people in WWF right on the quad and hopefully help boost the community in the WWs as well as in Fox [Hall] by having people living nearer to each other, [and] having some of those spaces not empty the way they are now in Whittier and Woolman [Halls]. On the whole, [I hope] it will be good for the campus and the community.”
“It makes sense because Malone is trying to connect the community,” Weaver said. “Having PGB move to Fox [Hall] makes more connection. They’re more connected to the quad, [and] it connects WWF more because we’ll be living closer to each other. But also, it’s weird.”
“People are far away from each other [with the current layout],” Schnyders said. “If we can consolidate our population a little bit … I think Woolman and Whittier [Halls] will just take on the identity of what WWF has been [in the past].”
Though the changes feel abrupt and somewhat painful to the buildings’ residents that are being displaced, there is also hope that the changes will be positive for the big picture.
“Like any change, at first I think it may be difficult for some, but in the long run hopefully we’ll all see the benefit,” St. John said.
“I think most will move over,” McBride said. “It’s the same community [and] the same people — the only difference is the dorm.”
“It’s tough, anytime you see a space you’ve called home turned into something different,” Czirr said. “It just takes time to get used to [the shift]. Hopefully by the end of the first semester next year … people will be more okay and more comfortable with it.”
“I think what people will find is that when they’re in a healthy community … it’s because they care about each other,” Schnyders said. “I think the people have way more to do with [how] people experience community than anything with the brick and mortar of [a] physical spot.”
While change can be upsetting and nerve-wracking, resident life is working to make sure that the transition is smooth, and the communities stay intact throughout the new dorm situations.